Nigeria’s Currency Redesign “badly implemented”, General Elections “dirty joke”: Cardinal

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke of Ekwulobia Diocese in Nigeria. Credit: Ekwulobia Diocese

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke has faulted the realization of the process of redesigning Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, saying it “was badly implemented”.

In his Easter 2023 Message shared with ACI Africa April 8, Cardinal Okpaleke who says Nigerians “are going through the valley of darkness” also criticizes the February 25 General Elections in Africa’s most populous nation, describing them as “a dirty joke”.

“The badly implemented cash redesign policy worsened the situation so much so that many wasted time and energy to get a paltry sum in the bank or wait interminably in the market for their payment through electronic cash transfer to be confirmed as received, before they could leave with the items bought,” the Nigerian Cardinal says.

In his observation that echoes what members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) previously described as a challenge in the “circulation of new Naira notes” and what two CBCN members decried as “not interesting” and “causing untold hardship”, the Cardinal says the cash policy was problematic. 

The cash policy, he says, has “created the situation of POS (Point of Sale) operators exchanging physical cash for electronic cash at a higher rate to compensate for their effort at the banks to obtain the cash.”


In October last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced plans to redesign its highest-value banknotes in a bid to address the challenge of excess cash and inflation. 

CBN allowed citizens to swap old naira notes with the redesigned bills from January 2023 to boost the adoption and circulation of the new currency before the old bills cease to be legal tender at the end of the month.

According to local media, the process of switching the Naira notes has faced challenges, especially in rural areas where people live far from banking services.

In his April 8 message, Cardinal Okpaleke also reflects on the General Elections in Nigeria, saying, “The height of it was the 2023 General Election. People hoped and worked hard to make it a turning point for a better Nigeria,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese says.

He notes that “through criminal negligence, if not willful collusion of a few, this key element in a democracy was turned into a dirty joke that sullied the high hopes people had.”

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On March 1, Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared the ruling party candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, winner of the presidential election, BBC News reported.

INEC leadership announced that Mr. Tinubu garnered 8.8 million votes against 6.9 million garnered by Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Obi’s 6.1 million votes.

Nigeria’s main opposition parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) disputed the results, accusing the INEC of not uploading the presidential results from the polling stations. A petition against the Presidential election was later filed with the Court of Appeal in Nigeria.

In his Easter Message, the Nigerian Cardinal also reflects on other challenges the people of God in the West African nation face.

“As individuals and as Nigerians, we are going through the valley of darkness and are surviving a lot that threatens life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” he says.


The Nigerian Catholic Church leader who was among the 21 Cardinals named on May 29 further says, “So far, we have survived the UGM – the infamous ‘Unknown Gun Men,’ – the herdsmen, and other criminal elements who terrorize our society.”

“We are going through untold hardship on account of many factors – galloping inflation, unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure, etc.,” the Cardinal whose Episcopal appointment was continually resisted, resulting in his resignation as Bishop of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese in 2018, says.

Despite the challenges, Cardinal Okpaleke says he believes “a new Nigeria shall rise and shine in Easter glory through the power of God active in our land – a new Nigeria that approximates our dream of a society where the citizenry live decently; a new Nigeria where justice shall flow like water and righteousness like a never-failing stream.”

“The Easter event is a pledge that through divine intervention, life can come forth from death, freshness from decay, joy from sorrow, and courage from despair. Indeed, light dispels darkness. But there has to be a lamb of sacrifice,” he says.

He adds, “At Easter, we celebrate that Jesus our paschal lamb has been raised. In imitation of him, we are called upon to brace up and face the darkness and brokenness in our lives and in the world with courage and trust in the abiding presence of God even when he seems to be far away and silent.”

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The 60-year-old Catholic Church leader continues, “Easter is a call to remain steadfast in doing good, ever hopeful that the good will triumph through the power of the One who is Goodness”

“God continues to invite us, as individuals and as Nigerians, to come and see the new thing God is doing in our midst. Despite all disappointments, let us not lock ourselves in and become self-centered,” he says in his Easter Message shared with ACI Africa.

“Let us, like the two disciples, spare thoughts for strangers, and show care and concern to others. That is one of the ways to encounter the risen Christ in one another,” Cardinal Okpaleke says.

He continues, “In this way, the new thing that God is doing in our midst, through the power of the resurrection, will bring about renewal and recreation in each of us, in our families, and communities and bring about a new Nigeria through the power of the risen Lord.” 

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.